April 2, 1995
Venue: Hartford Civic Center, Hartford, CT
Tagline: First Time, Last Time, Only Time…
Runtime: 2 hours, 26 minutes
TH: After the soaring heights of WrestleMania X, we begin the next decade of WrestleManias in the WWF’s corporate hometown of Hartford, CT, and it’s… a bit of a letdown. This is admittedly a tough time for the WWF. The WCW has been siphoning off talent left and right, and their Monday Nitro show is breathing down the neck of Monday Night Raw. It’s the first time in a decade that the WWF has faced any serious competition for supremacy, and they don’t handle it particularly well. At the same time their roster is suffering from a severe talent deficiency, they also dilute their product through overexposure. To the weekly cable tv show and the five annual pay per views (Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, King of the Ring, Summerslam, and Survivor Series,) they add the In Your House pay per view series, running five of them in 1995. That means ten of twelve months in 1995 had a pay per view event, which is a lot, even for the most dedicated fan. The result of all of this is an event that doesn’t feel particularly special. To make up for it, or perhaps to distract us, the company leans in on peak 90’s celebrity appearances from Pamela Anderson, Jenny McCarthy, Home Improvement tween heartthrob Jonathan Taylor Thomas (for the teen girls watching WrestleMania, obvs), and, umm, Nicholas Turturro from NYPD Blue. There’s some improvements in production values — we think this is the first WrestleMania where the stars have video montages to accompany their entrances, and several performers get pyro effects — but there’s also a surprising number of technical difficulties that mar the show. Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler are on the announcing table and good ol’ J.R., Jim Ross, is on the floor for interviews, so hang on to your 90s hairdo, grab your Pogs, and let’s get into it!
- The Allied Powers (Lex Luger & The British Bulldog) vs. The Blu Brothers (Jacob & Eli Blu), with Uncle Zebekiah
TH: This is not a great start. Lex, sporting a glorious blonde mullet these days, and Davey Boy Smith, looking a little puffy, don’t have much chemistry as a team, and their twin opponents are boring, aside from a goofy spot where they switch places and the ref doesn’t notice. There’s some general nonsense and a bullshit pin, and The Allied Powers (wonder how long it took them to come up with that one?) end the match by posing in the ring, Hulk Hogan style. It’s a little early, guys. Next.
RS: Lex goes from multiple title challenges and co-winner of a Royal Rumble to being in a tag team match at the top of the card. I can understand why Luger shows up on WCW’s first episode of Monday Nitro “unannounced” later this year. This is seemingly a partial comeback for the Bulldog who came so close to winning the Royal Rumble. Jacob and Eli Blu are some big m-f’ers. Those deerskin tunics they wear can not be comfortable, and I bet they smell great after a match. Compared to the modern offerings of WWF, this match is slow and not very technical. It would fit well on the card of WrestleMania 2. This is such a lackluster match, and Luger barely gets any ring time. Onward, please.
TH: This WrestleMania is already experiencing technical difficulties. Jim Ross’s post-match interview with Uncle Zebekiah happens pretty much in the dark, then we cut to Nicholas Turturo in the locker room with Pam Anderson, but he’s got no audio, forcing them to cut back to Vince and Jerry. “Anything can happen in the WWF,” Vince tells us, which, while technically true, feels like a misapplication of that sentiment.
RS: This show is off to a GREAT start. /s I’m tired of Vince’s nervous “HA HA HAAA.” There’s a guy with a sign that just says “BLOOD.” I’m on board with that guy.
- Razor Ramon, with The 1-2-3 Kid vs. Jeff Jarrett, with The Roadie – WWF Intercontinental Championship match
TH: “Razor Ramon” Scott Hall was the real deal. I’ve been watching all of the other pay per views from this period and he reliably puts on a good show, plus he’s got charisma to burn. “Double J” Jeff Jarrett is a Ric Flair rip-off who’s generally acknowledged as a shitty person IRL. I hope Razor cleans his clock. He’s wearing light-up glasses like he’s at a New Year’s Eve party and accompanied by “The Roadie,” aka Brian Kember, who would later become “Road Dogg” Jesse James in D-Generation X. Jarrett does his “strut,” which is basically Ric Flair’s “stylin’ and profilin’” walk. I wish The Nature Boy would show up and kick JJ’s ass for real for pretending to be half the man Flair is. We’ve got some more audio problems as we try to get a word from 1-2-3 Kid and Razor Ramon backstage, then Razor comes sliding into the ring, accompanied by an ill-timed fireworks show that might have burnt his bacon, or maybe cooked his Cuban ham.
There’s some fast action to start, Razor going for a couple of quick pins. These two make for an interesting contrast — Double J has flowing blonde hair and a glittery outfit , complete with bow tie, that’s supposed to support his gimmick of being a Nashville country music star, but really just makes him look like a poor man’s Chippendale dancer. Razor Ramon has simple blue trunks with gold razor blades on them, greasy black hair, and a Miami Beach tan. They’re like something out of Bulfinch’s Mythology. Two different times JJ doesn’t like the way things are going in the ring and signals his intention to cut and run, but both times he’s turned back to the ring by the 1-2-3 Kid in some weird ninja outfit that seems culturally insensitive. Jarrett gets the Figure Four on Razor (Ric Flair, please call your office,) but Razor reverses it then hits an impressive suplex off the second rope. He’s about to get his finisher, but The Roadie interferes, causing Double J to be disqualified so Razor wins but doesn’t get the belt. Booo! The best part of this match is when 1-2-3 Kid, Special Ninja Edition, gets in the ring after the bell and throws some flying kicks at Double J and the Roadie. Maybe this one should have been a tag match.
RS: I hate Jeff Jarrett. He’s an asshole, not a real country singer, and I have always found him boring and annoying. He’s definitely a Ric Flair ripoff — the strut, the figure four, the same heel tactics. This may be the first WrestleMania with live promos instead of pre-recorded, hence the audio problems for 1-2-3 Kid and Razor. Razor’s entry is very awkward, and his fireworks and stuff go off after they start fighting. There’s a fun spot where JJ is tossed over the top rope, landing on a downed Roadie. This match is back and forth but it’s still not really holding my interest. Vince’s “1, 2, and 3, he got him, NO HE DIDN’T” is exhausting. (See Vince’s “Dishonorable Mention” in our retrospective post.) Razor “reverses” the figure four leglock by rolling over, but I have never understood how that actually makes the other person hurt instead. Like, your legs are still the ones tangled up. I guess it’s just one of those great wrestling mysteries. The Roadie interferes causing a disqualification which finally puts me out of my Jeff Jarrett hell. Jarrett did end up with a bloodied nose. Good. I hope the “BLOOD” sign guy is happy, too. Jim Ross intercepts JJ and tells him he should be ashamed of himself. Damn right.
RS: Nick Turturro from NYPD Blue is hanging out with the heels Money, Inc. and Jenny McCarthy. Looks like Sid is back and has finally gone fully off the deep end from the PTSD he has from his relationship with Hulk Hogan.
- The Undertaker, with Paul Bearer vs. King Kong Bundy, with Ted DiBiase – Larry Young, special guest referee
TH: Undertaker is back after taking off for WrestleMania X, and Vince mentions that Undertaker is undefeated at WrestleManias so far, probably our first acknowledgement of “The Streak.” MLB umpire Larry Young is here as a special guest referee because… actually I don’t know why. There’s some slow, sloppy action from King Kong Bundy, back for the first time since WrestleMania III. Vince mentions Bundy’s record for the fastest finish, his nine second win (actually more like 17, but who’s counting) over “Special Delivery” Jones at the very first WrestleMania. Unfortunately the Bundy we see here is a long way from his leaner, meaner 1985 self. There’s some half-assed interference involving Paul Bearer’s urn with Ted DiBiase and Kama (Charles Wright, previously appearing in WrestleMania VIII as Papa Shango but not yet in his most popular ‘Godfather” gimmick) but there’s not much else to say here. I’m becoming less impressed with the Undertaker’s undefeated streak when I see some of these early matches. Hope he gets some real competition soon.
RS: Larry Young signed with the WWF as a referee because the MLB Umpire’s union was on lockout at this point. IRS from Money Inc stole the urn at the ‘95 Royal Rumble, leaving the Undertaker powerless. The theatrics for ‘Taker have really grown. He’s got thunder and lightning, and he controls the lighting in the arena. No word on whether he also controls the fryer temperatures out at concessions. After defeating himself in the first ever “mirror match” at Summerslam, the Undertaker now has purple highlights in his costume, presumably to help distinguish him in case he ever has another encounter with a doppelganger. King Kong Bundy is still an impressive mass of humanity though he’s getting up in age here. Jim Ross lets Kama know the urn doesn’t belong to him — cutting edge reporting by J.R. There’s still a rather dry match going on. The Undertaker body slams King Kong Bundy. He just came back from a back injury and then does that? Bad idea. Well, that leads to the end of the match, where Paul Bearer stops ‘Taker from charging out of there to look for the urn.
TH: Good to know about the Umpire’s Union thing. Roll the Union on! Which side are you on? Don’t mourn, organize! Wait, where was I? Oh right… Backstage, Nicholas Turtorro is trying unsuccessfully to find Pam Anderson. Instead he finds Jonathan Taylor Thomas, in a tuxedo, playing chess with Bob Backlund, who’s in his ring robe, just hanging out. Backlund is mad that JTT can name the chief justice of the Supreme Court. WTF is happening.
RS: Nick also finds Steve “Mongo” McMichael. I forgot he was part of this NFL crossover crap. I only remember him from commentating WCW Nitro. Spoiler, he becomes a member of the Four Horsemen after Brian Pillman’s car accident. Nick then finds Bob Backlund and Jonathan Taylor Thomas playing chess. OK, did I accidentally ingest some edibles?
- Owen Hart and Yokozuna, with Mr. Fuji and Jim Cornette vs. The Smoking Gunns (Billy & Bart Gunn), WWF Tag Team Championship match
RS: Owen’s mystery partner is Yokozuna. You can’t really hear much of what Owen is saying because Vince and Lawler can’t shut the hell up. We have the WrestleMania debut of the Gunns, who are supposed to be cowboys. They even sell it to the point where, when they were both injured, the story was they were hurt in a rodeo accident. Yokozuna has a beard, so he is clearly even more evil now. Yoko also is bigger and has been MIA since losing in a casket match to the Undertaker at Survivor Series. The Gunns are fast but Yoko is strong and big. Owen and Yoko team up for a devastating leg sweep / leg drop combo that makes the whole audience wince. Yoko also lands his classic belly to belly suplex that wrecks the crowd. He then drags Billy to the corner for a brutal Banzai Drop. Owen pops in for the pin in a weird ending. He looked like he was going to put on the sharpshooter but changed his mind. I wonder if Billy was actually hurt by that Banzai Drop? It looked real rough. After the match, Vince made me uncomfortable talking about the “power in those thighs.” We got new tag champs!
TH: My guess on that ending is Owen thought Billy might be dead, which would have made it difficult, if not impossible, for him to tap out of a Sharpshooter. Just a guess. Anyway, back to the beginning for a second, where the Smoking Gunns — Billy and Bart — get some fireworks for their entrance but it’s unclear why. They’re wearing their good brown jeans and nice boots. Leading up to this one, Owen Hart’s tag team partner hasn’t been announced, so everyone is in for a surprise with the return of Yokozuna. Good thing the Gunns wore their brown pants. Yoko gets some good heat for waving the Japanese flag. He’s sporting a quarantine beard, and seems to have gained 100 pounds since last time. (Hey, that’s my quarantine move! No fair.) The Gunns get off some good moves, but this one’s a foregone conclusion. RIP, Billy’s sternum.
- Bret Hart vs. Bob Backlund – “I Quit” match with Roddy Piper, special guest referee
TH: Backlund is a key figure in WWF history, but I will never understand what possessed the company to bring him back in the early 1990s for this angle. It started with (an admittedly impressive) appearance at the 1993 Royal Rumble, in which he lasted over 61 minutes, leaving him in the final four with Randy Savage, Rick Martel, and Yokozuna. He started feuding with Bret Hart, aligning himself with Bret’s estranged brother Owen, in the lead up to the 1994 Survivor Series, where he beat Bret to regain the WWF World Heavyweight Championship nearly eleven years after losing it to the Iron Sheik in December 1983. I’ll admit that the gimmick he adopted — an out of touch leftover from the previous generation of wrestlers who’s continually enraged by what he views as the frivolousness of “the kids today” — is mildly amusing. But he’s just not an engaging presence in the ring. He’s not particularly athletic or graceful, and he’s not large or strong enough to be legitimately threatening, plus he’s whiter than a pair of New Balance just out of the box. Honestly he looks like somebody’s dad, and I can’t get past it. I don’t have a lot to say about this match, which is disappointing because y’all know how I feel about Bret Hart. The gimmick is this is an “I Quit” match, which means the only way to win is to make your opponent say… wait for it… “I Quit.” That means guest referee Roddy Piper isn’t there to count pinfalls, but to continually jump in to stick the mic in their faces and yell, “What do you say!” It’s as disruptive and annoying as it sounds. They go back and forth on submission holds until eventually Bret reverses Backlund’s signature “cross-face chickenwing” and takes his opponent to the floor. Backlund yells something into the mic that may be “I Quit” (though he may just as well have been shouting his Taco Bell drive-thru order) and Piper calls for the bell. A waste of Bret’s talent and a weird match for such a high-profile event.
RS: Oh look, our favorite racist, narcissist, fake-Scottish-but-actually-Canadian Roddy Piper is the guest ref. I always liked “I quit” matches and this should be excellent. Bret Hart gets a monster pop from the crowd. This is a rematch from the ‘95 Royal Rumble, where Bret lost the belt to the 45 year old Backlund so the WWF could desperately try to ride on the publicity the great George Foreman earned for winning the Heavyweight Boxing title at the same age that year. The difference here is that Backlund then lost it almost immediately in one of the fastest matches ever at a house show against Diesel. Let me get this straight, Bob wouldn’t drop the belt to Hogan but would to Diesel? OK, you crazy fuck. Bob Backlund looks like an insane, oversized baby. I sense he may actually be into that adult baby fetish. Anyway, Piper is in their face with a microphone every 10 seconds: “What do you say?” He’s so obnoxious. I think the fighters are even tired of the constant prompting. We have all the classic Bret spots with the elbow and the shoulder to the ring post. Bret reverses the “irreversible” chicken wing hold on Bob and we get an “I quit” in a muffled voice from Backlund. Such an unceremonious end.
- Diesel, with Pam Anderson vs. Shawn Michaels, with Sid and Jenny McCarthy – WWF Championship match
RS: These guys go at it pretty hard as we are at peak Kliq. Shawn got this match for winning the Royal Rumble. He picked the #1 draw but the Rumble only had like three real contenders in it so it was pretty obvious from the start he was going to win. Shawn lands a pretty spectacular jump from the top rope to the outside of the ring. Shawn now officially has the super kick but it wasn’t enough to win it. This match failed to hold my attention and this show is so rough I didn’t feel like rewinding to watch it again.
TH: So in our retrospective post for the first ten WrestleManias we mentioned the exploitation of women that’s a big part of the 90’s era WWF, and here we’ve got BOTH Pamela Anderson and Jenny McCarthy as “arm candy” for this match. Pointless and disappointing, but both ladies look great in their formal wear and seem to be having fun. Too bad Jenny turned into an anti-vaxxer nut job. I still DVR The Masked Singer though, which I guess makes me complicit. Ken Jeong is a treasure — wonder if he’s done a WrestleMania yet?
ANYWAY, it’s crazy watching Diesel wrestle a relatively normal-sized person. He’s so freakin’ huge it borders on comical. When he tosses Michaels on a back body drop, Shawn gets such serious elevation I bet he thought he was back in the ladder match from WrestleMania X. Shawn spits at Diesel early on — I have to say it seems ill-advised to provoke someone that large. Diesel checks Michaels with just one hip, bouncing him onto the top rope and over. Sid offers emotional support to Shawn from ringside but isn’t really a factor. There’s a HUGE elbow drop from the top rope from Shawn, a Superkick, and more, but he can’t put Diesel away. At one point Shawn’s trying to get out of the ring and Diesel pulls him back in by his tights, giving us our second glimpse of Shawn’s ass in two WrestleManias. Gotta give the people what they want, I guess. I agree with Rich this one is a snooze, especially for such a talented pair of guys. After the match, apparently Diesel gets to keep both Pam and Jenny as prizes. I wonder where he displays them?
- Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow, with Ted DiBiase – Pat Patterson, special guest referee
TH: Main event time! For some reason each wrestler has a team — Bam Bam has Ted DiBiase and the members of Money Inc., including IRS, Kama, Tatanka, Nikolai Volkoff (in a tuxedo t-shirt! I bet Nikolai knew how to party), and King Kong Bundy. Lawrence Taylor is accompanied by a bunch of NFL players you don’t remember — Ken Norton, Jr., Chris Spielman, Ricky Jackson, Carl Banks, and Steve McMichael — plus Reggie White, whom you do. It makes total sense that this WrestleMania, probably the weakest since WrestleMania 2, also tries an NFL gimmick match. Didn’t work then, and it doesn’t work here. Bigelow and Taylor started feuding at the ‘95 Royal Rumble, when they got into it at ringside following Bam Bam and Tatanka’s tag team loss. Bigelow pushed LT and broke his glasses (rude), Diesel agreed to train the NY Giant on the finer points of wrestling, and here we are. I gotta say I think this is a dumb idea, but I really like LT’s WWF-themed jersey with his initials on the front. I’d wear one of those now, tbh. His wrestling boots have little “LT”s on them, too. I wish they had given him something other than basic athletic shorts to complete the look, though. Taylor lands a solid bulldog on Bam Bam and the two teams go at it ringside, then this one grinds to a halt as Bam Bam works on stretching exercises with LT like he’s a physical therapist with something to prove.
RS: I hate that this is the main event of their biggest show of the year. The NFL players come out to the Monday Night Football theme. I wonder how much that licensing cost. I guess this isn’t the first NFL partnership, if we recall the NFL vs WWF Battle Royale from WrestleMania 2. Looks like they pulled Pat Patterson out of the mothballs to be the ref for this match. I will say that this stunt has gotten Bam Bam some real heat. They’re dragging out the start of this match but failing to build tension. LT dominates the opening of the match and takes some good bumps. Bam Bam gets him in the Boston Crab which just looks weird. Nothing like seeing a football player held in a series of submission holds. Real entertaining… Bam Bam does an ugly moonsault that hurts his own knee, then lands his trademark flying head butt but LT kicks out after an extremely slow count. LT gets up and lands a flying punch from the second rope to get the win over Bam Bam.
RS: This is like trying to pick your favorite turd when you have diarrhea. I’ll pick Owen and Yokozuna winning the tag title. The Gunns do a good job selling to both Owen and Yokozuna, and Yoko, now 641 pounds, is devastating though definitely showing the exhaustion of his weight gain.
TH: It’s tough to come up with one, honestly. Yokozuna and Owen Hart in a tag team is a solid (hehe) moment, but I wish they had given Owen a little more to do there. I think I’m going with Razor Ramon vs. Jeff “Ric Flair Ripoff” Jarrett, primarily for Razor’s charisma and that flurry of ninja moves from 1-2-3 Kid at the end. Double J is still an a-hole, though.
TH: This pains me to say, but I’m taking Bret Hart vs. Bob Backlund. It’s not Bret’s fault, as he’s basically asked to wrestle a piece of driftwood while Roddy Piper shoves a mic in his face like Phil Donahue on crack. IT’S NOT BRET’S FAULT.
RS: Again, worst turd in the bowl… I’m going to have to go with Lawrence Tayler vs Bam Bam, but it was close with The Undertaker vs King Kong Bundy. Both matches were more about the outside of the ring antics than their actual fight. But, I hate the schtick of NFL players in the ring. I hate that when they finally give Bam Bam the biggest main event of the year, it’s not for a title or against someone that can make him look as good as he actually is.
Oh Sh!t Moment
TH: I said “Oh Shit!” when I got to the end of this one and realized it really was that bad. Also when I realized that the performance of “Whatta Man” by Salt-N-Pepa, promised to me by Wikipedia, was not included in the streaming version of this WrestleMania. Talk about disappointment.
RS: The Undertaker, who was fresh off a 6 month hiatus for a back injury, body slams King Kong Bundy. My wife actually asked me why I gasped.
RS: I really wish we didn’t have to count this as a WrestleMania. I’m going with a 1.5. It only scores that high because it’s under 2.5 hours long. The weak card, the gimmick main event, the let down after the amazing WrestleMania X. Bret Hart bogged down in a feud with Bob Backlund. Yokozuna and Lex Luger both relegated to early card tag team action. Asshole Jeff Jarrett is the IC champ. Undertaker is stuck fighting an over the hill giant which we covered before as not a good pairing for him. Everything is horrible. Plus, Simba himself, Jonathan Taylor Thomas.
TH: Let’s start with the good. Umm… give me a minute. Well, I guess it’s interesting to see the pieces of D-Generation X coming together — Sean Waltman (1-2-3 Kid), Road Dogg Jesse James (The Roadie), Billy Gunn, and Shawn Michaels are all here in different incarnations. Triple H will be here soon, then we’ll be flying. And I enjoyed seeing Scott Hall and Bret Hart, as always, and the 90s celebrities were a fun flashback to the year I graduated high school. Overall, though, this is a very weak entry in the series with a real dearth of exciting matches or memorable moments. The main event is a gimmick match between a legitimately talented wrestler and a football player. Even though it’s LT, one of the baddest men to ever play the game, that’s a shame. I’m giving this one a 1.75, my lowest rating yet, which means WrestleMania XI replaces WrestleMania 2 as the worst of all time (so far!)
Paul Bearer, d. 2013
Bam Bam Bigelow, d. 2007
King Kong Bundy, d. 2019
Howard Finkel, d. 2020
Mr. Fuji, d. 2016
Owen Hart, d. 1999
Pat Patterson, d. 2020
Rowdy Roddy Piper, d. 2015
British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith, d. 2002
Nikolai Volkoff, d. 2018
Reggie White, d. 2004
Yokozuna, d. 2000